The Government is planning to give cash handouts to girls and young women to keep them away from risky sex activities in a bid to eliminate HIV by 2030.
The ambitious Sh1.7 trillion, 16-year plan says such an approach has worked in other countries where young women and vulnerable girls are the most infected with the virus.
While launching the national HIV Prevention Revolution Road Map on Wednesday, Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said women aged between 15 and 24 years account for 21 per cent of all new HIV infections in the country.
School girls especially from poor backgrounds and their families will be given cash handouts and scholarships on condition that they stay longer in school and avoid risky sexual behaviour. Young women, especially those involved in commercial sex work, will be linked with micro-finance institutions where they can get concessionary loans to start income-generating projects.
“Scale-up of conditional cash transfers is known to decrease the risk of HIV in young people by decreasing likelihood of sexual debut by 23 per cent, improve school enrolment, delay first pregnancy and decrease risky sexual behaviour,” the plan reads in part.
The road map seeks to accommodate the ‘Melbourne Declaration’ which urges governments to repeal all laws that criminalise drug injection, prostitution and homosexuality.
The Melbourne Declaration was adopted in July at the 2014 Aids Conference in Australia. During the conference, it emerged that the rest of the world is getting tired of funding HIV programmes in some African countries that criminalise drug injection, prostitution and homosexuality.
One of the conference convenors, Michael Kirby told Africa not to expect taxpayers in the West to indefinitely shell out huge funds for anti-retroviral drugs if they simply refuse to reform their own laws and policies to help their own citizens.
The new road map crafted by the National Aids Control Council wants such laws repealed, claiming such groups are responsible for a third of new infections.
The four target groups are commercial sex workers, homosexuals, drug injectors and prisoners.
“Although these populations represent less than two per cent of the general population, they contribute a third of all new HIV infections in the country,” says the road map.
Last year, commercial sex workers, homosexuals and drug injectors contributed about 30,000 new infections. The document suggests that to reduce HIV infections in prisons, inmates should be allowed visits by their partners and arrangements be made to allow them to enjoy their conjugal rights.
It also wants the HIV policy in jails changed to allow for safe injecting needles, condoms and a daily pill to protect inmates against infection.
The road map, to be funded mainly by Treasury and donors, suggests drug injectors and prostitutes be legally protected from police harassment.
“We also propose basic hygiene kits and child-care support to be given to women who inject drugs,” the National Aids Control Council said.
Police will be trained on how to handle homosexuals, while drug users will be provided with drop-in centres where they can drop used needles and pick clean ones. The ministry wants age restriction on access to HIV and sexual health education scrapped by next year. There is a Bill in Senate proposing the distribution of condoms and pills to school-going children.
By GATONYE GATHURA, The Standard